When my main medium for listening to music was CDs, I enjoyed reading through the inlay booklet, plus other articles about the artist.
It added some backstory to the music, gave it some context.
The downside of this approach I think is that we soon form expectations.
After finding an artist we like, then instead of welcoming new music from them with an open mind and no preconceptions, we’ve already made decisions about what we want, compared with what we’ve been given in the past.
And expectations are almost always followed by disappointment.
How many artists have released a commercially successful album then felt pressured to release the same sounding record time and time again to give their fans more of what they bought the first time?
So one of the biggest shifts I’ve noticed since switching to Spotify for virtually all of my music listening, is how this expectation has changed, and greatly lessened.
Partly you could argue it’s because I’m not becoming so attached to the artists, because whilst I might have a small digital image of the album cover, I don’t have it in my hands, something I can hold and leaf through, something that impacts my senses of sight and touch and even smell, on top of the sound of the music itself.
This could be seen as a downside, that the music (or perhaps just the artist) is more detached, being kept at arm’s length.
But the benefits I’ve found are that I’m more open minded to embracing new music, without any preconception or expectations.
I’m quite happy to start with a song I already love, and let Spotify “Go to Song Radio” and find other songs that sound kind of similar, but are perhaps new to me.
Which then sends me on new explorations, down different sonic rabbit holes.
When I hear a new song that I really like, I investigate the album it’s from, then other songs and albums from the same artist – especially if they’re brand new to me.
Which finds me new favourites, and deepens my knowledge of artists I already knew.
This year, I’ve discovered artists like 36, Alaskan Tapes, Bersarin Quartett, Rafael Anton Irisarri, Erland Cooper, Alan Silvestri, Goldman, Chihei Hatakeyama and Abul Mogard.
And I’ve deepened my knowledge and appreciation of old favourites such as Hammock, Eluvium, Sigur Ros, Loscil, Robin Guthrie, Bing & Ruth, Windy & Carl, and John Williams, to name a few.
Listening to the music has been purely about listening to the music, a purely sonic experience to immerse myself in.
I’ve not distracted myself by reading the lyrics, looking at the artwork of the album, or exploring the artist’s biography.
It’s been about just enjoying the art, without the artist getting in the way.
I think this also fits beautifully with the way I like to listen to music, most often on my own, through headphones.
It’s a personal, intimate experience.
In my younger days I went to perhaps 20 concerts and gigs over a two or three year period, and did enjoy them, but still then I was happier spending quality one on one time with a record by myself.
I can’t remember the last time I went to a music event, certainly not since I’ve know my wife, which is 13 years. (Aside from a few salsa bands, but with that you go for the dancing more than to see the band of course.)
So how does this translate with photography?
Well, for me, I think I’ve naturally followed a similar approach for years.
My searches in Flickr have often been based around a subject matter or a particular film, camera or lens, or a group based around one of these variables.
Whilst I do follow a handful of other photographers, I’m not really holding my breath for each new photograph they share, however much I’ve enjoyed their previous work.
The groups especially mean the new work I see is often by someone different, and I can scroll through and enjoy the photographs without any preconception or attachment to the photographer’s previous work – because I usually don’t even know who the photographer is until I hover over the image or click through to see it full size.
As with music, I like this pure and simple approach, letting the photographs arrive at my eyeballs without any baggage (except my own!) to cloud or distort or disappoint.
Perhaps in many ways the greatest artists for me are those who are are all but anonymous, and let their work say everything they need to.
Part of me thinks, but hang on, I’m a photographer, and I’d quite like it if someone followed me on whatever platform (you have a grand choice of two – Flickr or WordPress!) because they enjoyed my pictures and look forward to the next ones.
But again I revert to the work itself.
I’d love for someone to really enjoy a photograph of mine, and find that it interested them, moved them, inspired them.
But then I wouldn’t expect them to want to hear my life story, or even care if the name and image I use online are real. (They are.)
How do you feel about your favourite art, whether it be music, photography, or any other medium?
Do you also have a keen interest in who created it, and want to know all about them? Or are you interested purely in the art alone?
As always, please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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